Students at the University of Cyprus organised an event to discuss the role and participation of women in political life and student action.
“Beyond the fact that it is an issue of fundamental justice, the essential participation of women in politics is extremely important for the wider social wellbeing of everyone. Political discourse and the gravity that is placed on discussions of issue relating to women’s rights, such as gendered violence, sexual health and rights, is inextricably linked to the participation of women in politics and cannot take place without including them as a main participant.”
This was the idea behind the event on March 27, organised by the university’s Academic Affairs and Student Welfare Service and led by psychological support officer Margarita Kapsou, the Cyprus Youth Council, the Gender Studies graduate programme and the UNESCO Chair in Gender Equality and Empowerment, as well as the university’s sociology and social criticism club.
According to the results of research carried by students of the sociology club Elena Papadopoulou and Antigone Hadjikalli, the glass ceiling is reproduced within the student community, as there are more men than women on club boards, especially in president and vice-president positions, despite the fact that women represent 70% of the student body and there are more active women in the clubs than men.
“This is indeed a problem that is happening and needs a lot of work,” chairman of the sociology club Theodoros Eracleous said.
Associate at the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies Maria Angeli presented the campaign on Parity Democracy entitled “Vote for Change, Vote for Equality” (paritydemocracy.eu) which aims at promoting the participation of women as voters and candidates in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May.
On a local level, Natassa Apostolou presented a campaign by the Cyprus Community Media Centre entitled “Where are the women?” (wherearethewomen.org) which looks to actively involve as many women as possible in the construction of peace and the peacemaking procedures in relation to the Cyprus problem.
During the event, there were comments by a panel of experts on issues of equality and participation, including acting head of the European Parliament office in Cyprus Alexandra Attalides, MP Skevi Koutra Koukouma and Despina Mertakka.
UCY Administration Professor Alexia Panayiotou expressed concern over the reproduction of stereotypes within the student organisations, as the imbalanced participation of women in the student community cannot be attributed to practical reasons, such as double shifts.
On behalf of the Cyprus Association for Family Planning Demetris Parperis said that there is mistrust in the student community regarding the leadership skills of women and pointed out that sexist views are not always reflected in available statistical data.
Chairman of the Cyprus Youth Council Despina Hapoupi encouraged young women to make use of the available opportunities in order to contribute to the formation of political directions.
Students and guests were then able to discuss and exchange views and concerns related to equality during a live discussion coordinated by representative of the NGO support centre Nadia Karayianni.